Abandoning My First Novel

I “finished” my novel for the third time this spring and I’ve been preparing to query agents or perhaps to submit my manuscript to publishers.  But I’ve come to the realization that this novel has no future.

The goal of my  most recent round of revisions was to tighten the scenes and add depth to the characters.  I wanted to bring my story to life, but my plan backfired and the plot flatlined.  Is there a way to resuscitate it?  Maybe I could revive it if I were willing to spend another year on revisions, but I think it’s time to let it go.  I’ve spent six years on this project and it seems I’m not willing to invest any more.

Does six years seem like a long time to spend writing a novel?  It does to me.  Maybe I’m just slow.  Or easily distracted.  Or maybe that’s just how long it takes.

I’ve thought about taking my impractical BA in French back to school so I can become a teacher or a librarian.  I think I could be happy doing either of those things.  The trouble is, I’m not ready to give up on writing.  My first novel may be dead, but my second one is waiting to be born.  New characters speak to me in the pages of my notebook and I want to find out what they’ll do.

I have no idea how long it will take me to write my next novel.  I hope it won’t take another six years.  Perhaps I’ll never publish a novel, but I still love to write.  That has to be enough.


Filed under Manuscript, novels, Plot, Writing

16 responses to “Abandoning My First Novel

  1. I’m sorry you’re going through this. If it makes you feel any better, I started writing my memoir over seven years ago. It was through writing it that I learned how to write. Originally the book was structured as a continuous narrative, but two years in I realized that wouldn’t work, so in many ways I had to start over. I’m also a very slow writer. I was writing my book proposal when I learned how important social media is, so for months I’ve been focusing on that. At this point, I just hope I live long enough to see this process through.
    I hope you don’t feel too bad about your novel. I’ve heard it said that every author has one “under the bed” book. The work you put into that will inform your next novel. It is SO not a waste! I’m glad you’re looking forward and taking pleasure in creating new characters. At the end of the day, you’re right. That’s what really matters.

    • Thank you! It does help to know that I’m not alone in this. I think it’s part of the writing experience. Not fun, but maybe necessary for growth. Let’s just keep writing together.

  2. Shary,
    Writing is about so much more than putting word on paper. You are brave to follow your instincts. You are in the perfect position to usher in your next novel! I look forward to hearing more from you!

  3. Leah

    Don’t give up on writing! If that’s your passion, follow it. Sounds like maybe you need a writing retreat to start a second project. And you never know about your first project. The right idea may come to you one day and then you’ll be off again. Anyway, I commend you for writing it in the first place!

    • Thanks, Leah. Luckily, I have a new idea already. I’ve been waiting impatiently to get started on it, so now I can dedicate myself to it 100%.

  4. Elizabeth

    Lots of writers hate what they write and that’s why they have agents. You don’t seem like the sales person type to me, and I wonder if you are not letting your novel have a chance at being published by being too hard on yourself? I wrote a novel and was too lazy to even rewrite it once. I still think that some of the scenes in it were good. Why don’t you just mail your book out and take a chance? It can’t be as bad as lots of the books that I have read in my life, and I bet that it has some value. Throw it to the winds is my advice, not that you asked. I’d read it, and I know that all the other ladies in our book club would love to get their paws on your work, too.

    • Elizabeth

      Thomas Mann said, “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

      I just read this in “The Writer’s Almanac” and thought that it applied to you.

    • Thanks for your support, Elizabeth. In a couple of years I might be able to look at it again with fresh eyes and know what to do with it. But meanwhile, maybe I will let you read it. Maybe. 🙂

  5. I’m with Elizabeth–send it out and see what happens! Experience has taught me that indeed we tend to be overly critical with our work and with ourselves. I would definitely send it out and see what others have to say. If it doesn’t pan out, like you mention, you can start your second one. Whatever you do, continue to write!

  6. Shary, It needn’t be either- or; you can do both. There are SO many stories of writers submitting and re-submitting and re-submitting, dozens of times, and now and then…something good happens.

    In the meantime, write. I’m not sure long your kitchen timer approach will work, but at least you have characters waiting to be set free and that’s more inspiration than many of us have much of the time. I think you’d be a wonderful teacher or librarian but if you have the option to keep writing full-time, go with it as long as its what you REALLY want to do.

  7. Maybe you’re just a little too close to it. Maybe shelve it for a few weeks, start developing your second book, then come back to your first with fresh eyes and new enthusiasm.
    I don’t think 6 years is too long to work on a book. Including development I’ve been working on mine for over a decade (that probably is too long). Audrey Niffenegger spent years writing each of her books.
    Plus, you may jus be having a bad day/week. I know I’ve had plenty, where I’ve read what I’ve written and wanted to print it out, just so I could scrunch it up and throw it out the window. In flames 🙂

  8. Regardless of what decision you make regarding the fate of your novel, if you love writing, don’t stop doing it.

    I write, not to be published – although that would be lovely – but because I enjoy it and can’t imagine NOT writing.

    And from what I hear, you aren’t the only person who has invested that kind of time in their work. Everyone writes differently.

    • I couldn’t stop writing, either. I think maybe that’s why I feel like I need to move on to a fresh project. I’ve been bogged down in revisions for a long time, hoping to work my novel into a publishable state. What I need now is to write, so it’s time for a new story.